Melissa Blake grew up watching romantic comedies like My Best Friend’s Wedding preparing herself to be her own plus one for all the weddings she would attend in life. Melissa is a wheelchair user born with Freeman-Sheldon Syndrome.
She states when she would leave weddings it would always leave her questioning what her own future held.
“I left each (wedding) feeling kind of wistful. Will that ever be me? Am I destined to spend eternity at the singles table? And, maybe the most telling of all, had my disability really made me this jaded?”
Melissa says it did not help that as she got older she could not help but feel that her physical disability put her on display. She states, “I felt incredibly self-conscious of my surgical scars, wheelchair, and deformities, and was about ready to say goodbye to any sense of hope.”
Melissa talks about her first experience attending a wedding as a solo guest. She recalls feeling anxious and how she stuck out in the crowd.
“It would be one thing if I could just easily blend in with the crowd—I craved that kind of anonymity—but instead, I carried that self-consciousness with me that night. Insecurity was my plus-one.”
Melissa remembers not wanting to sit at a table with strangers and their significant others having to dodge their questions regarding her relationships. She says, “I couldn't help but feel like I'd let my disability create a wall that separated me from the happiness they got to experience.” Melissa ended up sitting at a table by herself.
That was until a stranger tapped her on the shoulder and asked Melissa if she would like to sit with the woman and her husband. “I thought that maybe they just felt sorry for me, but realized I didn’t care even if they did,” says Melissa. Melissa enjoyed having someone approach her, so she accepted the invitation to sit with them.
“Obviously trying new things can be incredibly scary, but I realized that doesn’t mean they’re destined to end in failure. When I relaxed and opened myself up to forming genuine connections with new people—regardless of whether I had someone else there with me to divert some of the attention—it was such a refreshing feeling.”
A few hours later, Melissa found herself enjoying the wedding with her new friends. She states, “All night I’d expected to feel like the third wheel as if I was somehow imposing on them, but they made me feel like I could truly be myself. Even more surprising, neither my single status nor my disability came up in conversation. At all.”
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